War hero selected as grand marshal of Illinois State
Fair Twilight Parade
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[AUG. 5, 2006]
SPRINGFIELD -- In a salute to all Illinoisans in
the military service, Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich on Tuesday named Sgt.
Jerald K. Leech of Arthur grand marshal for the
Fair Twilight Parade. Leech, of the 1544th Transportation Company in
Paris, Ill., was wounded -- taking shrapnel to his left leg, left
shoulder, chest and his right Achilles tendon -- during a mortar
attack Sept. 5, 2004, while serving in
"Sergeant Leech fought
bravely and proudly and represented our state in Iraq. By honoring
him as this year's grand marshal, we can say thank you to all the
men and women who have sacrificed so much on behalf of our country,"
"I would like to thank Governor Rod Blagojevich
for giving me the opportunity and honor of being the grand marshal
of the Twilight Parade," Leech said. "I take great pride in being a
member of the 1544th Transportation Company and the Illinois Army
National Guard. I feel honored to be called a hero, but the real
heroes are ones like our five fallen soldiers, those who gave all
for the love of their country."
Leech graduated from Atwood-Hammond High School in 1998. He
joined the military in February of 2000, went to Fort Knox, Ky., for
basic training and then to Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md., for
advanced individual training, where he became a wheeled vehicle
mechanic, 63W. He also attended airborne school at Fort Benning and
was then stationed at Fort Bragg, N.C., in the 82nd Airborne. During
his training he received two Army Achievement Medals and one Army
Commendation Medal while at Fort Bragg.
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After leaving active duty in February of 2003, Leech joined the
Illinois Army National Guard and was assigned to the 1544th
Transportation Company. The unit was activated in December of 2003
to go to Iraq. For his service, Leech received a Purple Heart and an
Army Commendation Medal.
"It is truly an honor for the state fair to recognize Sergeant
Leech and all that he represents to the people of Illinois," said
Amy Bliefnick, state fair manager. "There are not enough ways for us
to say thank you for the sacrifices millions of young men and woman
make through their service. By Sergeant Leech leading the Twilight
Parade, it's our way to say thank you and also giving local
residents a chance to say show their appreciation."
The parade will start at 6 p.m. on Thursday. From Ninth Street
and North Grand Avenue, it will travel down Ninth to the
fairgrounds' Main Gate. The parade will follow Main Street through
the fairgrounds to Grandstand Avenue before concluding at the north
end of the Grandstand.
Admission to the fairgrounds that evening will be free.
[News release from the governor's